We all know that positive company culture is an imperative aspect of a successful and more importantly, sustainable, company. Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest companies in the world are known for their great culture, including Google, Zappos and Twitter.


From our experience

Creating a positive company culture is something the Kong & Way business coaches focus on when working with clients. Strangely though, very few of our clients have actually asked us for it. From experience, it seems that some business owners believe that positive company culture is naturally created without effort, or that it is a second priority after increasing profits. And often, clients dismiss opportunities to improve culture due to their preconception that it requires a lot of money to do properly.

If you tend to feel the same way, it might be time to reconsider your priorities. Business success, on paper, looks like it’s all made up of numbers and other quantitative data. But if that was the case, we would all be able to build multi-million-dollar businesses by following the existing formula.


Why company culture?

Although there are many contributing factors to success (including luck), one of the most important and perhaps easiest factors is creating and maintaining positive company culture. Companies with great culture focus on emotional health and wellness of their employees, and by extension, creating happy customers.

Investing in positive company culture can give you benefits in the following ways:

  • Happy employees create happy customers by going above and beyond and treating them well.
  • Employees who are encouraged to show off their talents bring creative ideas to the table.
  • Positive collaboration between employees fosters a productive environment.
  • Employees with professional development opportunities are more likely to stay in the company for longer.
  • Essentially, happy employees work harder, which can result in higher revenues and profits.


Company culture on a budget

Not all business owners are fortunate enough to have a lazy few thousand dollars lying around. For a lot of us, giving our employees a significant raise or bonus, or throwing big parties for them, are out of the question.

The good news is, they are not the only ways you can improve your company’s culture. So, how do you create positive company culture on a budget?


#1. Celebrate the little things.

Acknowledge little wins like a new employee’s first sale, or a positive online review. All these little milestones are due to the hard work of yourself and your employees, and should be recognised as such. As an example, you could ring a bell in true old-school style, or take a quick on-the-spot Polaroid photo of the employee.

Celebrate the little things to build positive company culture
Celebrate the little things to build positive company culture


#2. Have a party or “happy hour” budget.

Set aside a few dollars each week to put towards a regular office party. These parties don’t have to be big or glamorous. Having a “happy hour” every Friday with some drinks and pizza is a great and relatively cheap way to lift your employees’ mood and morale.

Another idea is to have a donations box for parties. You and your employees could throw in a few silver coins everyday until it hits $50, at which point you can use the funds wisely for a budget party or match the donations to double it.


#3. Let your employees throw a party.

This is a great idea for large teams. Let each department take turns throwing office parties of their taste within the budget that you give them or that you saved together. This works well in big teams as those who don’t want to participate in organising events don’t feel forced. And there are always one or two people in each team who love throwing parties.


#4. Be genuine and show gratitude through words.

Creating positive company culture doesn’t even have to cost you a dime.

Words don’t cost anything, but they can earn you respect and appreciation. Communicate with your team through heartfelt words. As a business owner, you would have these moments when you just look lovingly at your team and feel a surge of joy and gratitude. Don’t just keep them in your head; Let the words flow out.


#5. Gain employees’ insight via anonymous surveys.

Build a positive company culture by asking your employees to share their thoughts and ideas with you. Make it anonymous so that they can be honest with you and share things they’ve been scared or shy to say to you in person.

There are online surveys you can create for free, or you could always just build it in Word and print them out.


#6. Keep an up-to-date calendar of birthdays and other personal events.

Celebrate important dates with your employees such as birthdays and anniversaries. You don’t have to go over the top with cakes and flowers every time to create a positive company culture. What matters is that you acknowledge these events. Make sure to make your messages personal instead of the generic “Happy birthday. Have a great day.”


#7. Cook or bake something yourself.

This works both if you’re a great cook or a bad one. If you’re great, they’ll love you for making a nice treat for them. If you’re not so talented, they’ll appreciate the effort you put in anyway and it can be funny while showing off your human side.

Positive company culture doesn’t always have to be created upon perfect things or events. The fact that you spent your spare time making something for your employees will mean a lot in and of itself.

Bake something for your employees for positive company culture
The fact that you put in the effort to make something for your team means more than how it tastes!


#8. Reward positive attitude.

Rewarding and celebrating good work or great results is great for creating a positive company culture. But don’t forget to reward great attitude, too. Employees who go out of their way to help their colleagues, or are generally optimistic and resilient, should be recognised for their contribution to a more stable and collaborative work environment.


#9. Mix up the environment and scenery.

Changing up your physical environment can do wonders for employee morale. Have a picnic meeting if the weather is nice, or even a one-on-one walking meeting if you don’t need pen and paper.


#10. Make a suggestion box.

Digital surveys and feedback forms are a great way to engage your employees and to give them a voice. But why not make a physical one? It can be more lighthearted than a scheduled formal questionnaire. And depending on the general mood of your team, you could read them out loud in a meeting regularly.


#11. Let your employees decorate the office on a budget.

Even putting up a new picture on the wall can change the whole vibe of an office. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to decorate your workplace by shopping at places like IKEA, Kmart or op shops.

Your employees generally spend a third of their day in the office. So, let them create the kind of environment they want to be in and collaborate together. This works better in a small team as it’s harder to cater to everyone’s taste in a bigger group.


#12. Volunteer together.

Giving back to the community as a team is a great way to build a positive company culture. Pick a charity or volunteer program with your team and dedicate a paid day every few months to volunteer together.

Volunteer with your colleagues for positive company culture Kong & Way
Participate in voluntary work with your colleagues to lift engagement and improve company culture.


#13. Give proper breaks and time off.

Do the right thing by your employees by upholding and respecting their time off. It’s not uncommon to find employees that complain about being called several times on their paid time off or even sick days. If you respect their personal time, they’re more likely going to respect their work hours.

This includes training your team leaders to allow their members to take proper lunch breaks without judgement. The kind of mindset that employees shouldn’t take longer breaks than their managers is dated and has no place in businesses that are serious about creating a positive company culture.


#14. Let your employees run a class or training session on something they’re passionate about.

Foster your team’s passion and talents by creating an environment in which they can share it with others. This can help them practice their skills as well as allow others to learn a new skill. Whether it’s work-related or not at all relevant, encourage them to run their own tutorials during set times.

For example, they could be classes on Excel, Photoshop, fitness, meditation, crafts, knitting, makeup… The list goes on.


#15. Be transparent. Share your vision, company performance and direction.

Employees who know what they’re working towards are more likely to work harder to achieve the goal. Involve them in your vision and share your thoughts and ideas on where you want to take the company. Share with them how it’s been going so far, and what needs to be done to make the company goals a reality. Don’t forget to celebrate hitting targets!


#16. Allow working from home depending on circumstances.

Making everyone come into the office no matter what isn’t always productive, and not always possible for everyone. One employee might live 2 hours away, and another might have to go to the doctors or their child’s school performance. Depending on the circumstances, practice flexibility by making their job suit their life as much as possible.

Positive company culture sometimes requires you to disregard your own ideas of how a workplace should be. Just because most of us went through the difficulties of meeting the requirements of strict company rules, doesn’t mean our employees have to!


#17. Go easy on the dress code.

Speaking of traditional ideas of how a workplace should be, a more casual dress code could contribute to building a positive company culture. While dressing in suits might be beneficial in some ways, it can also create a rigid environment. Plus, it’s really not that comfortable, and for employees that don’t have a lot of clothes that fit the dress code, they will be forced to go shopping for more.

Being flexible with dress codes and prioritising comfort and productivity over image is an easy way to engage your team. It’s also a good way to show them that you don’t fuss over the little things as long as they’re happy and focused.


#18. Give feedback. But before you do, learn how to do it constructively.

People want to know how they’re performing. Your employees want to know if they’ve done a good job, and how to improve if they could have done better. Learn how to give constructive feedback and regularly engage your team in one-on-one conversations about their performance.


#19. Go for a lunchtime walk together.

One way to do something fun and healthy together is to go for a group walk at lunchtime. It takes no money and no real preparation, and can be an opt-in activity so that employees don’t feel forced to participate.


#20. Hire a fitness coach once a week.

This might be relatively expensive compared to the other ones in this list. But if you find the right coach or trainer, it doesn’t have to be. Organise a fitness/yoga morning once a week to bring your team together. If you can’t afford to have an instructor, you could always put on a YouTube video or a DVD. Or play an audio track to meditate together.


#21. Let them blast music before/after their shift if they want to.

Some workplaces (like retail) can allow for high-energy and loud prep or wind-down times before opening or after closing. Listening to music while doing routine tasks can be a fun way for your employees to get work done, especially in a young workplace. Let them know that they can play the songs they want and don’t have to work in silence!


#22. Teach them skills that are not directly relevant to their roles.

If you can teach them skills that are useful but not necessarily relevant to their roles, go for it! A positive company culture fosters the people’s individual passion and talents. Their role in your company is not what defines your employees. Help them find their passion or hobbies by teaching them how to do other tasks.


#23. Watch a movie together in the office.

Who loved movie days in class? Just because we’re not in school anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t have them again. If your work schedule is flexible, put on a movie or a show on gloomy days. If it can be relevant to your business, even better, but it can just be about doing something fun and different.


#24. Support employees’ personal goals.

Your employees have their own lives and goals. Should they choose to share their personal goals with you, support them as much as possible in order to create a positive company culture in which your employees feel important and cared about. For example, your employees could be on a diet, quitting smoking, or completing a personal project. Show your interest and support, or better yet, do a group challenge if appropriate.


#25. Buy good toilet paper.

Little things matter. Instead of the cheap toilet paper you can buy in bulk, spend a few more dollars and get the soft 3-ply ones. Employees notice and appreciate little gestures like this.


#26. And good coffee, too.

Upgrade your generic kitchen supplies from home brand to name brands. Even if they’re not any different in quality and taste, employees appreciate when you don’t cheap out on them by buying the most budget things. They cost just a few more dollars each time, but the appreciation will be worth it.

Buy good coffee for your employees Kong and Way
Spending a few extra dollars for everyday items like coffee and toilet paper can mean a lot to your employees.


#27. Get your meeting formula right.

Some meetings achieve nothing but exhaust people. Invest energy in finding out the perfect meeting formula for your team and get everyone on board. For example, you could decide you will never have meetings in the morning. Or each team leader takes turns running the meeting. Or each person has 3 minutes to speak.

Improve engagement and productivity by making meetings straight to the point, and make it fun while you’re at it.


#28. Make a big deal out of employees’ first days.

Most businesses make a big deal out of employees’ last days but not their first. You might have experienced a first day when most people in the office didn’t even know they were getting a new colleague. Make your new hire feel important by creating company-branded welcome packs or at least letting your team know about their arrival.


#29. Have regular shared breakfast.

Preparing a few loaves of bread and some jam and juice is not a huge drain on your resources. Pick a day each week to have breakfast together. One important thing here is to prepare all of this yourself, not getting an employee to do it. It’s about showing your appreciation, and shouldn’t become another task on your team’s plate.


#30. Don’t praise too much unnecessary effort or overtime.

Bosses and business owners often recognise when an employee comes in extra early or stays late to do more work. While this behaviour can be great and needs appreciation, a well-organised workplace shouldn’t require its employees to spend too much extra time regularly. Too much praise of this can also make others feel guilty.


#31. Make your events as gender-neutral as you can.

While you might not be a fan of “too much political correctness” in your workplace, it’s important to be sensitive to the needs of all your employees. Especially in an environment where it leans towards one gender, pay attention to the type of activities you do together to make sure everyone can participate.


#32. Back up your employees. Have consequences for bullies.

A positive company culture ensures that employees treat each other kindly. If you notice or hear about bullying or harassing behaviour, take action immediately.


#33. Set an example when handling crises.

Compose yourself and treat your team respectfully even in the most dire and stressful situations to lead by example. Handling unexpected crises can be a great way to show your employees how to behave in your workplace and what you expect from them.


#34. Take candid photos of your employees.

While it’s not always possible, it’s important to celebrate the little moments or even non-moments. Take photos of your employees working, chatting, in a meeting, or doing anything that’s part of their daily work. It’s a great way to do a review of a year, show off to guests, present in conferences, or show new hires. Additionally, when it comes time for your employees to leave, photos make a great and thoughtful gift.


#35. Hang up those photos in the break room.

The photos you take don’t just have to reside in your hard drive. Print them and create a photo wall. Find creative ways to present them and increase employee engagement.

Take candid photos of your employees K&W
Create a positive company culture and capture the moment by taking candid photos of your team.


#36. If possible, have an “About” page on your website for each of your employees.

For small teams, it’s a great idea to have an “Employees” page on your website. Share a little about their role and goals, or a quote of their choice.


#37. Introduce your employees to important guests and clients.

When you have important guests come into the office, introduce your employees! If appropriate, share their responsibilities and talents. There is no better way to show a positive company culture than showing off your knowledge about your employees and your bond.


#38. Share insight into your daily work.

Earn the respect of your employees by showing them what you do on a daily basis. Better yet, take turns letting them spend a day as a CEO or director. They’ll have a better idea of your role and responsibilities, and appreciate you for taking the time to share them. It could also open a new world of possibilities for some employees who want to start their own business one day.


#39. Avoid traditional hierarchical roles. Make coffee for them when appropriate.

It’s not rare for business owners or high-level executives to ask their team to make coffee or do little chores that are not part of their role. In small organisations, it might be needed from time to time. However, this should be a two-way street. When your employees are in a meeting or working hard, make/buy them coffee or offer to help them out in little ways. These tasks are about mutual respect and favours and shouldn’t be expected of your employees.


#40. Show your human side. Let them know what’s going on with you.

Everyone has bad days. And as hard as we try, it’s not always possible to leave our personal life at home. Practice balance in sharing your personal life and let your team know if you’re having a particularly difficult day. This helps to build a positive company culture by creating an environment of trust and understanding.


#41. Offer counselling services like EAP (Employee Assistance Program).

Offering counselling services to employees is much more expensive than anything else in this list, but extremely beneficial for the emotional well-being of your team. Team members who are happy and satisfied are generally more productive which is great for your business. But it also gives you an opportunity to help them without intruding.


#42. Donate to a charity of your employees’ choice.

Pick a charity that your team cares about and make a donation. Your employees could take turns choosing a charity that is important to them. Like volunteering together, giving back to the community by donating can bring your team together and provide an opportunity to talk about meaningful topics.


#43. Be flexible with working hours.

While it’s not possible for all businesses, some can give their employees several work-hour options to choose from. For example, instead of a 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, would your employees rather do 9 to 7 Monday to Thursday for a long weekend?


#44. Invite employees’ families and partners to work events.

A positive company culture acknowledges employees’ personal lives and other priorities. Show that you care by inviting families and partners to work events. Make sure to pay attention to their anniversaries or other important dates, and take extra care to remember their names!

Include family and partners in work events to get to know them better and engage them on a more personal level.
Include family and partners in work events to get to know them better and engage them on a more personal level.


#45. Compete in low-resource games (and take it seriously).

Not all workplace games have to be costly or about team-building. Sometimes the point is just to have fun! Host a lunch-time trivia game, pictionary or paper plane competition.


#46. Host company Q&A sessions.

Even if you think you’re sharing everything with your employees, there might be certain things you’ve missed. Host Q&A sessions to give your team a chance to ask questions about the company, its performance, direction and your role.


#47. Mail thank-you notes to employees’ homes.

Celebrating little things are important, and it’s even better if you can show how much you appreciate them. Mailing a thank-you note to your employees doesn’t cost much at all but is heartfelt and shows that you took time.


#48. Sacrifice your benefits once in a while.

Sometimes you enjoy comfort while your employees don’t because it’s not always possible to have everything to be equal. For example, you might have a more comfortable office chair, or a designated parking space.

Don’t hesitate to share these things under special circumstances. Giving up your parking space for an employee with an injury might not mean so much to you but is something they will remember for a long time.


#49. Hire the right people.

All your efforts to create a positive company culture might not have as much of an impact as you want if your employees are not the right fit for the company. Look out for cultural fit during the hiring stage so that you have some shared interests, passions and goals.


#50. Don’t force it, and don’t punish non-participation.

Importantly, not everything you do for your team will be appreciated or enjoyed by everyone. That’s just the reality; You can’t make everyone happy. Don’t let it get you down and don’t force them to join in even though you want to create one big happy family. Your efforts to encourage participation can make some people feel forced and even isolated.

Always offer an easy way for them to join, but don’t make remarks to make them feel like they’re not being a good sport or that they’re not part of the team.